Mission and History

Mission Statement
Our mission is to enrich our communities through music education, appreciation, and performance.

Vision Statement
At NVMS, we seek

To provide quality instruction to students of all ages
To be a leader in music education and excellence
To seek innovative new ways to make music education a part of everyday lives through


North Valley Music School was begun with a conversation in the Whitefish Post Office in the fall of 1997 between Betty Lou Wambeke and Betsy Kohnstamm. Betty Lou was a well-known piano teacher in Whitefish and a graduate of the Toronto Conservatory with teaching experience at a music school near Vancouver. Betsy had some non-profit experience, some children ripe for music lessons, and played the cello in the Glacier Symphony. These two quickly formed a partnership and gathered some students together that fall for a first chamber music concert. Members of a board were gathered in the spring, non-profit status was obtained, and we rented the United Methodist church’s Sunday school rooms for the fall of 1998. At that time the church was located at 7th and Pine, the current site of Whitefish Independent High School.

We began with Suzuki-based violin and piano lessons, preschool group music classes and then added guitar, voice and cello shortly thereafter. Early board priorities were to begin music education early in life, offer Suzuki instruction for the early years as the inclusion of parents in the learning was so critical, include parents as volunteers and stakeholders in the non-profit school, and offer many recitals so children would have the opportunity to play in public at least once a month. The following year we moved the school to the Sunday school space at the Presbyterian Church downtown. We spent two years in this rental location and without the help of the generous boards of these two churches the school would probably not be in existence today.

The school grew quickly during these years as we added teachers while sticking to our Suzuki roots. We sent staff members to various training offered during the summer and worked on establishing better organizational and financial routines. All of our billing, payroll, and financial affairs were done by loyal board members in our first years: Leadership positions taken by Betsy and BettyLou shifted dramatically when BettyLou suffered a debilitating stroke that left her handicapped in her ability to communicate.

During the summer of 2001, due to a generous donor, the means were found to buy our own home at 432 Spokane Ave. Donations poured in from many sides as furniture was purchased, another donor loaned us the funds for a new furnace, many hours of volunteer work went into painting, and contractors built a new bathroom and wheelchair ramp.

Over the years the school has gradually established its identity in the community and the state as a unique non-profit music school. Programs continue to expand and have included in recent years the expansion of summer music opportunities, more early childhood music classes using the Music Together curriculum and expanded guitar and string opportunities.  Grants and donations continue to fund many programs at the school and the support of the Montana Arts Council in recent years has been critical.

Our board is a hands-on working board, though much of the day-to-day management and operation of the school has been turned over to paid staff.   Office hours are Monday – Thursday, 10 – 5.  Stop in — we’d love the opportunity to visit with you!